Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan
by Simon Conder Associates

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British firm Simon Conder Associates has built two wooden houses into the side of a steep hill in the English coastal village of Porthtowan (+ slideshow).

Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates

The client asked Simon Conder Associates for a family home and a smaller building housing an artist's studio and guest apartment on a site overlooking a beach on the north Cornish coast.

Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates

Two existing houses were removed to make way for the new buildings, which are partly buried in the hill to avoid obstructing views from properties higher up the slope.

Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates

This steep incline created buildings with a single storey facing the road, but two storeys opening out towards the sea.

Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates

Large windows on the southern elevations help to bring natural light into both buildings. They're shielded by deep verandahs that reduce heat gain in the summer but allow winter light to penetrate and warm the interiors.

Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates

The verandahs also provide balconies on the upper ground floor with views along the coast.

Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates

Other additions include a first-floor courtyard, accessible from three sides, and a large open-plan living room with a central wood-burning stove.

Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates

Other houses we've published recently include a residential development built on the edge of a steep valley in Sweden and a concrete house that staggers down a hillside in GreeceSee more houses on Dezeen »

Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates

Photography is by Paul Smoothy.

The architects sent us this project description:


Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan

The Site

These two new houses are located on a dramatic, south-facing hillside overlooking the beach in the village of Porthtowan on the north Cornish coast. The site has particularly fine views down the coast to St Ives. Surprisingly, for such a prominent and relatively remote coastal site, the new houses are surrounded by a suburban estate of bungalows dating from the 1950s.

Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates

The Clients

The two new houses are for the same client, a couple with a teenage son. The larger house, Malindi, will be used as the main family home.

Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates

The smaller house, Providence, will accommodate an artist’s studio at upper ground floor level and an apartment for visitors and family at lower ground floor level. Both houses replace much smaller and substandard houses owned by the client.

Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates

The Design Solution

To reduce the impact of the new houses on the landscape, and avoid blocking the view from the houses further up the hillside, both houses are built into the 1 in 7 slope of the hillside, so the houses are single storey on the road side and two storey on the seaward side.

Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates

The two adjacent sites face south and this orientation has been used to create two passive solar gain houses to minimise both the use of fossil fuels and energy costs. This has been achieved partly by fully glazing the southern elevations of the two houses and partly by using highly insulated, high mass construction for the remainder of the two houses.

Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates

To minimise the possibility of overheating in summer the glazed southern elevation is set back behind hardwood verandahs, which provide full width balconies at upper ground floor level and protect the interiors from the high summer sun, while allowing the much lower winter sun to penetrate deep into the two houses.

Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates

The external cladding, roof decking and verandah structures are all made from FSC certified hardwood which has been left unfinished to weather naturally to a silvery grey.

Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates
Ground floor plan - click for larger image
Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates
First floor plan - click for larger image
Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates
Section one - click for larger image
Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates
Section two - click for larger image
Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates
Front elevation - click for larger image
Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates
Rear elevation - click for larger image
Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates
Family house elevation - click for larger image
Two Passive Solar Gain Houses in Porthtowan by Simon Conder Associates
Guest house elevation - click for larger image